We’ve enjoyed a handful of really great 2011 picture books in the last few weeks; each one of these comes with a Highly Recommended designation from Hope Is the Word!
Time to Eat by the husband-wife team Steve Jenkins and Robin Page really doesn’t need any help from me, not with that author/illustrator attribution! Steve Jenkins is one of my go-to guys for science picture books; in fact, I’ve already written about him here and the here. Time to Eat is a fascinating look at various animals and their eating habits. Some of the animals included are the giant panda, the chipmunk, the tiger shark, and the crucifix toad. All of the animals are featured on a one or two-page spread, and often they share space with another animal. The text is well written and provides just enough information to pique the reader’s curiosity. (The most interesting fact to me is that a baby blue whale drinks the equivalent of 800 glasses of milk daily, and it can gain up to 200 pounds in a twenty-four hour period. That’s impressive! ) This is a small-ish picture book that I think would appeal to most any animal-loving kid (or adult), and I can definitely see that this book might create interest and motivation for further research. With Jenkins’ trademark torn- and cut-paper collage designs, it’s just as interesting visually as it is scientifically. I noticed on Amazon that Time to Eat has a couple of companion volumes (which you can see here): Time to Sleep and Time for a Bath. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for them! (Houghton Mifflin, 2011)
It just so happens that this next title makes a really nice companion for Time to Eat! Even an Octopus Needs a Home by Irene Kelly is a similarly themed and formatted picture book, with a couple of differences. The first and most obvious is that this book is about all the interesting places a variety of animals make their homes. While I’m certainly no expert, we’ve read a good number of animal books, and this book contains facts that I’ve never heard before. For example, did you know that monk parakeets build apartment-like nests, and sometimes these multi-unit nests can be as big as a car? Wow! The illustrations in this book are lovely watercolor and goauche paintings and pen-and-ink drawings which are very kid-friendly. The last difference is the text–there’s more of it (and more animals are discussed in general, I think) than the Jenkins and Page book. My only complaint about this book, and it’s a small one, is that the format of the text is wave-like instead of lined up nice and straight, and the text is all in a sans-serif font that I don’t particularly care for. This is all nit-picky, though, because it really is a wonderfully interesting book. Visit Irene Kelly’s website to learn more. (Holiday House, 2011)
This last title isn’t straight nonfiction like the other two, but it is a story based on Jane Goodall’s life, so I’m including it in this post. Me. . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell is the short, sweet, and inspiring story of one woman who grew up to make a difference. The tale picks up when Jane Goodall is a little girl with a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee. She spends time observing nature and feeling that it “was a magical world full of joy and wonder.” She reads about Tarzan of the Apes and dreams that she, like that other Jane, lives in the jungles of Africa. Of course, we all know how this turns out. I have to say that the ending of this book choked me up a bit, and I don’t even really consider myself a huge animal lover. The story itself is inspiring enough, but the illustrations in this book really take center stage. The India ink and watercolor paintings are sweet and very child-friendly, and McDonnell included both watermark-like stamped botanical and zoological images and real excerpts from Jane Goodall’s childhood journals. It’s very scrapbookish. I’m making a prediction that this one will receive some press when awards are handed out. Patrick McDonnell also happens to write a comic strip which I know nothing about but find very intriguing. (I’m still missing Calvin and Hobbes greatly–anyone else?) Check him out! (Little, Brown, 2011)
I’m going to try to remember on Monday to link up this post to Nonfiction Monday at Playing by the Book, which is a great weekly meme for discovering wonderful juvenile nonfiction titles.